Author Topic: The Magick Of Classical Music (Article)  (Read 81 times)

Frater Sisyphus

The Magick Of Classical Music (Article)
« on: July 17, 2018, 01:36:49 am »
Namaste All!

Now, while I could (as I have a hell of a lot of experience as a composer) say a lot in this areas about this not-often-explored subject, I'll let the music talk for itself on this one:



Also, while I haven't seen a single episode yet of the Jack Parson's inspired show "Strange Angel", it is very intriguing that Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite Of Spring" (perhaps the most popular 20th Century Classical work) happens to be a structural motif in the show, the episodes are even named after movements from it  :mrgreen:

For a long time, before I even knew that Strange Angel was in production, I always felt that Crowley and Stravinsky had some kind of correlation. Now both Magick and Classical music have evolved a lot over the past century since their both Stravinsky and Crowley's respective iconic works where published but I feel they seem to hold a similar place in their field. They are both held in such high regard by many but teeter on the edge (or past it) for conservative classical listeners and religious/spiritual/philosophical people, respectively.

Stravinsky was a contemporary of the '2nd Viennese School' consisting of composers Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern (my favorite of the three) and Alban Berg. Schoenberg seems to have (for some unknown reason) a lot of controversy within the world of classical music, in spite of the major developments and extremities explored later in 20th century classical music. His most famous development was the so-called 'atonal' approach to music, where chromaticism and lyricism take a much more active approach within the compositional framework. It's hard to describe without talking about music theory directly, but here is one of his very exotic, atmospheric works:



Interestingly, his music among many where censored in WW2 by the Nazis, he was a Jew too which didn't help. There was a similar censorship of magick going on alongside it, and literature etc.

Before Stravinsky, there was composer Alexander Scriabin, who was engaged in Theosophy; like me at the moment, completely absorbed in The Secret Doctrine and writing grand (unfinished) works like this, among his vast piano repertoire:



Interestingly, his Mysterium shares an interesting trait with Crowley's Aeon Of Horus, in that (through Scriabin's massive work, which was to be the grandest thing ever - read it's history, I don't want to copy + paste) it was to represent a mass change of consciousness, an end to the old world so to speak: an apocalypse which changes the entire world. Whether or not one believes in Aeons or not, we did infact get this in the 20th century. Scriabin's Mysterium was intended to force this kind of destruction and rebirth through art.

Much later in the century, after Stravinsky and the 2nd Viennese School, we get a new wave of composers after WW2 that are working within a fresh musical paradigm, where there seems to be an oft-unspoken sense of mysticism in the air.

I won't go into depth about everyone but it started with Olivier Messiaen, famous for writing the Turangalila Symphonie (but I love his later works far more):



Messiaen was a Christian Mystic and wished to capture the divine in his work, he wrote a lot of great organ and piano music. One of his early 'hits' was a piece called "Quartet For The End Of Time", which was written for the unusual combination of clarinet, violin, cello and piano - although this kind of configuration has been explored much more afterwards by different composers.

Karlheinz Stockhausen, also a Christian but coming from a different angle again, his work was also concerned often with mysticism. One of his piano works is called "Mantra" and is worth a good listen. The grand highlight of his prolific and innovative career is his massive Opera Cycle named "Licht". It is heavily inspired by the underground-famous transmitted spiritual text "The Urantia Book" (one of the first spiritual texts I took an intrigue too in my atheist years too), which is a very interesting thing to contemplate in it's own right. The Licht Cycle is 29 hours long (longer than Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, which Crowley also liked). The Licht Cycle is quite Gnostic and has a complex but abstract plot, with three central characters being Michael, Lucifer and Eve.
No single excerpt can give a complete view of the opera cycle but here is a great staging of one scene from it:



On another end of the scale, we have composer Iannis Xenakis, inspired by Greek Mythology and Plato (among others), trying to connect (as Stravinsky did in the Rite Of Spring) with ancient, raw, powerful spiritual and ritualistic expression. He has been my favorite classical composer since my teens and probably always will be. In his music, it is not hard to spot the ritualism.
His orchestral, piano, string and electronic works are all incredibly immersive and amazing but for the sake of this thread and to illustrate the point, this work for six percussionists is very evocative of a ritual, a procession, a sacred ancient rite:



All around this time, many american composers such as John Cage where writing music directly using the I Ching and star constellations.

And lastly (to keep the thread concise), we have following after all of these Gerard Grisey, exploring the microscopic aspects of sound itself (the sound spectrum) and bringing it into the forefront, revealing the vast complexities in the smallest aspects of sound itself - which is an 'As Above, So Below' musical situation. This piece (correctly titled "Partiels") at the beginning explores the resonances of a low E on a trombone, which soon becomes a massive wave of harmonies and rhythms. This music is psychedelic, shamanic, hallucinogenic, psychonautic. It is an example of how closely connected Mysticism, Science and Art actually are:




And as a bonus, I will also share a masterpiece from one of Grisey's contemporaries: Tristan Murail. This piece will take you places  :D (sadly there aren't any score videos for it up anymore...)



Edit; I should add that in the 21st century, we have composers like John Zorn (and myself) who are composing works directly influenced by Magicians like Crowley, Spare, The Golden Dawn and Chaos Magick: (he even uses Spare's art on some of his CD covers!)




Conclusion:
So, to bring it full-circle. There is some kind of strange leaning that the world is developing, back to mystical and magical thought - in affirmation from science. Modern/contemporary Classical music has gotten increasingly mystical, to the extent that it is often seen as impenetrable and/or elitist by the classical mainstream, for the pure reason that the paradigm has shifted. Classical music is no longer about lovely melodies or romantic fantasies, it is about the depth of human expression and consciousness itself; a spiritual and artistic liberation from the strains of the past. As Magick/the occult becomes gradually more and more accepted in this world, so will contemporary classical music.
Having a show about Magick and Science crashing; Strange Angel, now bordering on the mainstream and hinting at the relation between classical and magick is just the beginning.  8)


All is Om,
Frater Sisyphus
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 02:26:09 am by Frater Sisyphus »